I was ten years old and we were spending Christmas at my grandparent’s house in Florida when I picked up a few markers and some colored pencils and created Hillside Mall. We had driven all the way down from Virginia, and through my window seat in the back of our station wagon, I would press my face up against the glass to see the skylines of cities like Winston-Salem, Atlanta, Knoxville and others we passed along the way. (We made a few side trips.) I also loved it when we would go rushing past those interstate abutting malls. I remember as we drove past Northgate Mall in Durham, Four Season Town Center in Greensboro and West Town Mall in Knoxville. My first mall was kind of an amalgamation of these three places.
Hillside Mall, side one.
As the name implies, it would be built into the side of a mountain. It would be four levels with the same number of anchors. Due to space limitations, it would have both surface and rooftop parking. The part of the mall facing the base of the hill would feature a two level vertical atrium situated directly above two further levels of leasable area.
Hillside Mall, side two.
Why I chose the anchors that I did, I’m not really sure. Thalhimers was a favorite store of mine even though we rarely shopped there. Many of their stores seemed to feature what I had dubbed the “Thalhimers Turret,” an area of the façade, usually to the left, that was raised a few feet higher than the rest of the roof and came a few feet forward from the rest of the footprint. Interestingly enough, however, I didn’t incorporate the turret into this building.
Hechts at Colisuem Mall in Hampton, Virgina, originally a Thalhimers, sports an example of what I call the "Thalhimers Turret."
Hillside Mall was crude in design, but I knew exactly what I was going for in my own mind. Years later, I would revisit this theme of non-aligned multiple tiers on a mall built into a slope. The result was a facility I called The Top of the Cumberland.
Hillside Mall was reinvented as The Top of the Cumberland nearly 20 years later.
The name was chosen because I was living in Huntsville on the southern extreme of the Cumberland Plateau. I loved the plateau scenery, especially in the vicinity of Crossville, Tennessee, so I figured what way to improve upon it than by plopping a regional mall right on top of it. Profitt’s was chosen because, at the time, it was east Tennessee’s hometown store.
I realized when I finished designing The Top of the Cumberland that the curved corridors and circular center court combine to create the appearance of, well, little swimmers. Don’t read too much into that. I decided never to change it because, what the hell, it makes it just a little more interesting.